Improvisational Patchwork

Become an Improvisational Quilter

How much time have you got?

Choose project size: Placemat, wall hanging, table runner, lap quilt, bed quilt or HUGE Wall Art

Colour: Pick a palette of colour. Check out a colour wheel. Look around you for inspiration. Use an object such as a vase, rug or a pillow for colour options. (beach, forest, monochromatic, African etc)

Shape: Lines, curves, squares, circles, waves, abstract……. Pick a style and stick with it throughout the project

Collect your fabrics. Be it by design, by purchasing the desired colours OR work with what you have by sorting scraps into colour groups that are pleasing to YOU. Maybe start with your scraps and purchase new to fill in the gaps

Before you start to sew:

Get your sewing machine, cutting table pressing area prepared.  Doing so, prepares for fun, satisfaction and pure bliss

Machine is clean, insert new needle such as a size 70 or 80 microtex.

Thread the machine with Aurifil 50wt thread, it is super fine and strong, full bobbin, lasts longer and your seams will press flatter. Choose a neutral colour that will work with all your fabric colours.Let’s go!

You already know how to sew and understand the basic rules of sewing. With improvisational patchwork “accuracy” is not important. You are not following a pattern, the patches need not match up or measure up to a designers  instructions, sooo…….. ¼” seams are not required but not frowned upon.

It IS important to sew a straight line (just try pressing flat and open a curved seam!)

Grab two pieces of similar sized fabrics and stitch them together. Your first pair!

Grab two more pieces of fabric, stitch. Repeat, make a pile. Time to get up and stretch,  head over to the ironing board and press the pairs open, as you would usually do.

Consider each pair the start of a block. How many blocks? How big will each block be when finished?

8” or 20”? The smaller the block the more blocks you will need.

Make 9, 12, 20 blocks. You get the idea.

Set your pairs beside the sewing machine. Pick a third piece of fabric and stitch it along one side, any side, you are the designer.

At this point you can start making “rules” or we should really call them “the steps in YOUR design”.

Stitch the third pieces to every pair and head to the ironing board. Don’t like pressing? It is okay to finger press the seams instead! But do press once you have made the blocks

At any time you can hang the blocks on a design board, step back and ponder about what you see.

Look for the flow of the design, do you like it, move it around, rotate, play. At some point you will want to stop making each block bigger. Now is the time to start compiling all the blocks into one piece.

There are several ways to do this,and it is all fun:

Simply sew two blocks together, trimming after stitching. If a block is too small to fit, make it bigger. Too big? Trim.

Sew to blocks together with a secondary unit in between, maybe only a thin strip of fabric

Cut one or two blocks into parts, rearrange and stitch together with each other or take a piece and start another block!




Here is the blog I wrote originally for my Improvisational Patchwork and Dye Class

Cotton, linen, cotton, rayon, silk, hemp, cotton/linen blends, flax, velvets & jaquards. New fabrics, vintage linens and antique laces & doilies.

With bobbins wound with white Aurifil 100% Egyptian cotton thread.

“Just sew scraps together,” the teacher said. “Just do it! Add a scrap, add a square, add a strip,” suddenly a quilt block is done.

“Make another block” said the teacher. And another, more, more, more. Square up the blocks, join the blocks.

In no time we had a quilt top ready to……………….Dye!

Ready to dye

Knowledge of dyeing was not a requirement in this class. The simple steps were explained, but the dye mixing was left to Carola’s daughter Alaina. The students were here to enjoy the process of sewing and see the results of their own colour choices in their beautiful dyed quilt tops.

Low water immersion Avocado Green, Curry and Egg Plant
Low water immersion
Avocado Green, Curry and Egg Plant

Above is Carola’s quilt top soaking in the Procion Dye tub, a shallow plastic tub about 18″ x 24″ After 15 minutes of steeping in the dye, soda ash solution is added. All in all, very little water is used in this process.  Only one hour later the quilt top is ready to be rinsed. “Rinse until the water runs clear” Carola said.

Aurifil 50 weight 2 ply was used to free motion quilt
Aurifil 50 weight 2 ply was used to free motion quilt

Finally, here is Carola’s hand dyed quilt top. All the different fabrics took the dye in different ways.

The dark square in the middle is silk velvelt
The dark square in the middle is silk velvet

It is all the twists and turns in the whole process that makes Improvisation Patchwork such a fun, inspiring and uplifting experience!



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